It’s been at least ten minutes since our last Breaking News Story about the imminent (or already past) demise of the Tea Party, so we may as well trot out another one. Excuses for holding this particular wake vary from a general sense of dissatisfaction with the current crop of presidential candidates to perceived failures by the freshman GOP class of 2010 to consistently live up to their promises. The liberal leaning Daily Beast offers up the latest dissection of the Tea Party’s corpse this week, with the following bits of “insight.”
But after months of wondering how the Tea Party would change the primary game, leaders inside the movement admit they never came in off the sidelines. For the Tea Party movement, the 2012 presidential primaries have been a bust.
“The Tea Party movement is dead. It’s gone,” says Chris Littleton, the cofounder of the Ohio Liberty Council, a statewide coalition of Tea Party groups in Ohio. “I think largely the Tea Party is irrelevant in the primaries. They aren’t passionate about any of the candidates, and if they are passionate, they’re for Ron Paul.”
Littleton is one of the many who have endorsed the Texas congressman; he blames the other GOP candidates for the lackluster energy they have generated in the grassroots that hosted a revolution two years ago.
Perhaps a different view from a more conservative viewpoint is in order. Does the Tea Party have organizational problems when facing down more entrenched, establishment forces in the Republican Party? It’s certainly a common argument we’ve been hearing. But to put it all in context, let’s take a look at the latest video from Ben Shapiro. In it, he calls on each of you to adopt a far older model and become Minutemen for the cause. (The text of the comments follow the video and you are invited to comment.)
This week, Laura Ingraham and George Will had a fascinating conversation in the green room of ABC’s This Week. “The tea party,” Ingraham said, “doesn’t have the great strength that the old media believe.” Will disagreed slightly, stating, “It’s too soon to say that.”
Ingraham is right. Will is wrong. Mitt Romney’s victory proves it. Romney is no conservative. His record isn’t conservative; his rhetoric isn’t conservative; his unwillingness to embrace the Tea Party isn’t conservative. His nomination proves that moderate to liberal forces inside the Republican Party – and a large group of conservatives who have been wooed to back Romney based on the bizarre notion that he is most electable – now control the direction of conservatism in the country.
As a committed Tea Partier, it breaks my heart to say this: we have lost our direction. Sure, we flexed our muscle in 2010, when we elected the largest class of new Congress members since 1948. We handed an opportunity to great Americans like Allen West and Marco Rubio. We struck fear into the hearts of the media. Hell, they were so scared they were pulling out the old racist card.
And then we were betrayed. We were betrayed by our own members of Congress, who proceeded to cave on the budget battle to avoid the dreaded government shutdown – a shutdown that would impact virtually nobody except those on government benefits – and on the debt ceiling, too. What did our legislators get in return for betraying us? They achieved a $352 million cut to the 2010 baseline budget – that’s was about .009% of the 2010 budget, in case you’re wondering, and we were promised cuts of $7 billion in the 2012 budget authority, or about .2%. This wasn’t a drop in the bucket. It was a molecule in the ocean.
The establishment treated us like Old Yeller. They loved us while we were hunting for them; as soon as we stopped being useful, they took us out back with a shotgun.
So what should the Tea Party do next? We should take a lesson from the real Tea Partiers. When they dumped chests of tea into the water of Boston Harbor, they didn’t stop there. They ended up forming up into small bands of Minutemen. Those Minutemen drilled to fight the British. Most of the Minutemen had to equip themselves. They didn’t have uniforms. They used old weapons. Rapid mobilization was their byword; they were known as the Minutemen because they were supposedly ready in a Minute.
It’s time to move beyond the Tea Party. We’ve had our party, we’ve dumped our tea in the harbor. The forces of big government and big media fought back. Now is the time to get active. Now is the time to become Minutemen. Whenever we see a violation of conservative principles – by anybody, Democrat or Republican – we must strike as hard and as fast as possible. We must not be bound by personal loyalty to candidates, but by loyalty to the principles of our founding fathers. It’s our job to hold our elected officials’ feet to the fire. Milton Friedman once said, “It’s nice to elect the right people but that isn’t the way you solve things. The way you solve things is by making it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing.” That’s our job. And now is the time for us to answer the call.